A voting matter

Counting on machines

India’s electronic voting machines have come under some scrutiny by the media, civil society, politicians and voters. Since we use the same voting machines, our chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, clarified that the recent questions surrounding the integrity of the EVMs are:

… nothing to worry about. “I’m not concerned because I’ve seen many EVMs and the Indian EVMs are the best,” he said, adding that he had inspected various EVMs at an international conference in Philippines, where international vendors showcased technology during an exhibition at the election technology conference. “We have no reason to be concerned.”

The chief election commissioner’s confidence in the electronic voting machines is comforting. And his assurances that our EVMs are the best such machines are welcome.

But the very nature of electronic voting means that there will always be EVM critics. They will warn us that machines, being machines, can be tampered with, and that they can malfunction. And they will point out that voters have no way of verifying that their ballots have been actually recorded or counted properly.

So we should ask ourselves: do we really need to use electronic voting?  And we should ask ourselves this basic yet important question, even if we possess the world’s best EVMs.

Remember that our electorate is small and manageable – the 2008 elections had all of 318,465 registered voters. And that, as such, the paper ballot, a technology that’s plain and simple, but one that’s tried and tested, may serve us much more convincingly.